When I arrived at Aceituna Grill in Kendall Square I felt comfortable because it was my own place of work. I started a job there last year, so I knew the people at the restaurant, and I felt like I was in my environment. The restaurant was mostly empty because the workers were preparing the food for lunch. I sat down with Sameer Malik, the co-owner of the restaurant, to discuss how he came to own it.
Malik was born in Lebanon. He had to leave his country when he was very young because of a civil war, so he came to the United States where he would have the opportunity to study and eventually get a degree. He had to apply for asylum to get a visa, and fortunately, he was granted it. He then studied business management at Texas Christian University in Fort Worth, and e-commerce at Boston University.
“Basically, [managing] all [of] life plus studies together was a bit hard at the beginning,” Malik said. “But after about a year, I got used to it and it became much easier.”
He is now the co-owner of Aceituna Grill, which serves Mediterranean food like falafel, hummus, shawarma and many kinds of salads. The service at Aceituna is really fast and people don’t wait as long for their food as a regular restaurant, which is great if people don’t have a lot of time to eat. The food is healthy and it is always fresh.
Before he started his business with his friend, he was working in corporate America. Malik ended up owning a restaurant after that friend approached him with the idea.  “I started the business because I liked to cook and my partner approached me with the idea to open are restaurant and I like the idea,”he said. “So we opened [in] 2004, August to be exact. Now, 15 years later, we have three restaurants.”
Malik’s day-to-day work includes delivering food to customers and other companies that want his food catered. He is also always around to help his employees if they are working.
Malik is unique for many reasons. As an immigrant escaping from war, he found many opportunities in the U.S. Many people have opportunities, but not all the people take advantage of them. I enjoyed talking to Malik because he has been my manager for a little while now.
Before asking him questions about his life, I hardly knew anything about him. Now, I can say that I know him pretty well. I believe that I will be more confident in the workplace since I have built a relationship with my manager, who happened to experience a very challenging life. I am inspired by Malik, and I’m proud to share his story.
Read more…
I was standing outside a public library looking around for Robin Hennessey. Suddenly, I received a phone call from her. I was about to answer when I heard someone call my name behind. It was her. We saw each other standing at different ends of the building. We shook hands, and with a smile, she said, “Hi Douglas, I’m Robin. How are you?” We headed inside the library and looked for a quiet place to talk.
Hennessey has been teaching for over 15 years. She currently works as a English as a second language teacher at Fenway High School. Before becoming a teacher, she received her bachelors from UMass Amherst, her masters from the University of Washington in Seattle and her doctorate from Boston College.
“I always wanted to be a teacher.” she said. “And after I had done that for about 18 years, I decided I wanted to start teaching ESL.”
Hennessey taught ESL to adults in Boston and Worcester before joining Fenway. She now teaches ESL levels two and three. The majority of students that she teaches are native Spanish speakers, which means that she spends a lot of time practicing her Spanish in order to communicate with students who are beginning with their long journey to learn English. “I use some Spanish, but I’m not fluent. But with the level twos, we would speak some Spanish and some English.”
Hennessey does more than just teach at Fenway. She often brings students to a small garden in front of the school so they can practice gardening while learning English.“I just feel like it’s probably a really long day when you’re learning another language, to just be practicing that language all day,” she said. “So I thought it might be good for them to have some other experiences as well.”
She sometimes takes students on other trips, such as visiting The Museum of Fine Arts. The purpose of this is to give students a different way of learning things. “I also use a lot of pictures and visuals to help communicate what I want them to understand,“ she said. Hennessey also finds time to take her students to the school library which is located on the second floor of the building.
Hennessey is kind to everyone, she keeps her classroom organized and is always willing to help.
Read more…
I met with Bonnie McBride at the Southwest Corridor Park by the Green Street station in Jamaica Plain. She dressed casually, but she still looked professional. At the park, we sat, and a brown puppy came by. McBride started playing with the dog by petting it and smiling.
McBride was born in Boston. She got her master’s in library information science at Simmons College. Currently she works at Fenway High School as a school librarian.
There are many different ways to describe the environment of the library on a busy day. Most of the time, McBride is obligated to close the library because of all of the work she does to provide students with what they need.
“I discovered that working with people is a lot more fun than working with papers,’’ she said. She probably learned the same amount during her first year as a librarian as she did at graduate school.
McBride is very open to others, and she’s always trying to get along with people. Being a public school librarian is not what people might expect. Sometimes people ask her what type of job she has, and she tells them she is a librarian at a school, and they get surprised by that.
A challenge she has faced—and is still facing is dealing with upset people and students—who are being too loud and not letting other students focus. When those students don’t let others focus she is forced to kick them out of the library. When it comes to this, she tries her best to help the other students no matter what.
“I want to work with people… and make this space available to everyone,” she said. “Students will come to the library for many different reasons.”
Even today, she always tries to make people feel comfortable with themselves, something that is not that common with other librarians. She is a special person because of how nice and friendly she is to others. McBride says her job is not as easy as just finding books, but is instead more managing student expectations. Whether it’s helping a particular student find a book that they find interesting (a murder mystery, a graphic novel or even manga), McBride makes it her priority to help others have a unique experience when visiting the library. “You’re actually working with people and talking and interacting with people all day long,” she said.
McBride is trying to make the library a place where students can feel comfortable with themselves and learn. At the moment, she is focusing on helping students with college applications. She provides them with many informational websites on all of the best colleges in the city of Boston. Just by doing this, it is easier for the rest of the students to do research on what college they’re interested in. She told me the mantra she lives by is "what do you want the library to do for you?"
Read more…
Kamila Civilus
I walk with a middle aged women past the doors, entering the area where Boston Police Department Commissioner William Gross’ office is. I hear a boom of male laughter come from the office as he opens the door. He smiles, looks at me and says, “Kam-me-la!” trying to imitate my father’s Haitian accent. I smile at the humor in his voice as he says it. We embrace for a few seconds and then we walked into his office.
In 2018, William Gross made history by becoming the first person of color to lead the Boston Police Department. With over 30 years of police experience, it has been a long and interesting journey for him.
Gross was born on February 1, 1964 in Hillsboro, Maryland. He was raised on a pig farm in a two-story farmhouse by a single mother. He also lived with his older and younger sister, and they all grew up in poverty. Because he never met his dad, Gross says he was raised by the community. His main influences growing up were his mom, and football coaches—Harry and Dennis Wilson—who were like his father and uncle figures. “People saw a vision for me, as a young man, with their leadership and guidance, that I probably couldn’t see for myself,” he said.
At the age of 11, Gross left the farm and moved to Boston. Getting familiar with the city was challenging for Gross, who moved from a small town to a big city with different ethnicities, accents and people in general. He attended Boston Public Schools during the desegregation process, which caused riots and violence on both sides.
After graduating high school, Gross entered the Boston Police Cadet Program. According to the city’s website, Gross spent many years as a patrol officer for the gang unit and drug control unit. He also served as an academy instructor. Gross climbed the ladder, achieving the rank of sergeant, sergeant detective and deputy superintendent among other titles. In August of 2018, Gross became the Boston Police Department’s first African American commissioner.
“The weight that it holds is tremendous, because all eyes are on you,” said Gross. “There are still prejudiced people out there who want to see me fail. I didn’t get this job on my own. I’m very humble,” he said.
Gross first became interested in law enforcement as a kid when he had to manually change the channels on the TV to his grandmother’s liking. The shows usually had something to do with law enforcement. “Whether it was westerners— like a sheriff, or marshal—or shows that deal with detectives and big city police. I was programmed,” he said. “Because I loved the little shows.”
Gross has faced many challenges during his career, but a great one for him has been “not having someone see the vision that you have for a great city.”
Gross explained, “Often [we] are not on the same page…so sometimes you have to have the patience to show them that no one’s going to forget them.”
As we wrapped up our conversation, we took pictures with swords that decorated his office, something I never thought I’d be doing. It was cool, and so was he. He walked me out of his office and I respectfully said bye to everyone, thanked him, and left with new things to think about.
Read more…
Naomi Epshteyn
Imagine you were born with a headband permanently glued to your head.
No, no — hear me out. You have a headband permanently glued to your head. It’s orange. It’s ugly. It’s garish. And you can’t take it off until you’re 18.
Maybe you were always aware of this hideous headpiece. Or maybe you weren’t — one day in middle school, you glanced at a mirror and it was suddenly there, and you frowned because suddenly you’re aware of it. It’s like being aware of your own breathing, or maybe like the headband doesn’t quite fit. Maybe as you hit puberty, it just gets tighter, digging into your scalp like it doesn’t belong.
This is just a metaphor, of  course, and a rather silly one at that, as many trans youths’ gender dysphoria manifests in different ways with varying intensity. For me, it’s like being claustrophobic in my own body. It’s like wearing a really uncomfortable bra that I can’t ever remove, and every day since I hit puberty, I’ve only become more and more aware of it. Because the person in the mirror; they’re me, but they aren’t me.
Imagine you’re the only one who can see that headband. When you confide in someone about it, they just blink at you, confused.
(“But, that’s silly, isn’t it? It’s weird.” “Why does it even matter? You’re the only one who can see it, can’t you just pretend you don’t have it?” “Why are you so distressed about this?”)
One day, you learn you can get that headband removed. It’s causing you pain and distress, but there’s a way out. All you have to do is get your parents’ permission because you’re a minor. Otherwise, you’ll have to wait until you’re 18.
Except your parents don’t believe you. (“I don’t get it...” “Just ignore it, you’re still young — it might go away.” “It’s not that big a deal, is it…?”)

For many trans minors, this is a best-case scenario. A mismatch between what you see or feel and what others do can make puberty a traumatic, painful experience.
There’s a way out, though. Medical procedures like top surgery and hormone therapy can alleviate these awful feelings of dysphoria that are a serious contributor to the horrifically high suicide rates among trans minors, along with oft-negative experiences at home and school. And yet, many organizations and facilities that perform such procedures require something that many teens aren’t able to provide: parental consent.
(“Why does it even matter? Can’t you just pretend you don’t have it?” “You’re delusional. I want my son/ daughter back.”)
New England’s primary LGBTQ+ health center Fenway Health states: “If you are already a patient at Fenway Health and are currently under the age of 18, your parent(s)/guardian(s) must consent to any hormonetherapy.”
There are two hormones that are primarily associated with a traditionally “male” or “female” puberty. All sexes have varying amounts of each, but estrogen is responsible for curves, breast growth and secondary-sex characteristics generally associated with folks assigned female at birth. Testosterone, on the other hand, prompts muscle growth, makes one’s voice deeper and kick-starts the growth of facial hair. Having one’s hormone levels corrected to better reflect one’s personally-recognized gender, as opposed to the one they were assigned at birth, can cause tremendous relief for a trans person’s physical and mental well- being. A big worry that many parents have is that hormone therapy has a lasting effect, but you know what else has a lasting effect? Puberty!
If 16-year-old girls can consent to sex in the state of Massachusetts, if 16-year-olds can take driver’s ed and potentially get into a fatal accident (still more socially acceptable than a life-affirming procedure), why does such a rule exist?
One might argue that Fenway Health’s criteria for transition aren’t universal, and they’d be right. Rules and regulations vary from organization to organization, but lack of consistency aside, it can be difficult to find a clinic that will operate on minors. And, hell, that’s even if you experience “sufficient” dysphoria to “qualify” as trans, according to doctors, most of whom aren’t transgender.
What then? If cisgender children (or children who identify as the gender they were assigned at birth) are old enough to know they’re cis, why disbelieve your own child when the thought of growing breasts is causing them visible distress?
Teens aren’t allowed to be responsible for their own transition, but isn’t it during this tender, fragile time that they need the most support? Puberty blockers exist, but they can cost thousands of dollars, and transition-related care isn’t covered by many insurance plans either. (Seriously, what’s up with that?)
Transitioning should be covered by insurance. Parents should take their teen’s gender identity as seriously as they would if their kid broke their leg. At the very least, the age at which trans youth can provide informed consent and get access to life-saving hormones should really be reevaluated.
If a teen is old enough to make sexually-charged decisions or get into a fatal car accident, they’re old enough to make life-saving decisions about their body, and that’s my hot take. If  kids can realize they’re gay, they can realize they’re trans. If they’re old enough to have a panic attack over having a girl’s butt or a man’s chest or a garish orange headband glued to their forehead...they’re old enough.
(I’m old enough.)
Read more…